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Protecting Staffing and Programs That Impact Residents

In our first Public Works & Operations budget oversight hearings for the FY 2025 budget I’ve been pleased to see that the Mayor retained funding for parking enforcement, including booting and towing, and for a pilot program for wheelchair-accessible taxicabs in the District, set to launch this summer. We’ve also seen concerning cuts.

At the Department of Public Works, I’m concerned that cuts to staff will impact the agency’s ability to provide adequate services. We also heard that funding has not been allocated to continue my public restroom pilot into the next fiscal year, meaning by the time the Thrones are placed, they will only be there for four months. I will work to continue to find funding for this program.

And in the Office of Administrative Hearings, the District’s administrative court, it is clear that cuts at the agency will seriously impact its ability to provide residents with access to a fair and efficient hearings.

At our hearing with the Department of Public Works, I raised concerns about how DPW plans to provide adequate services with fewer staff. As with every agency, the staff at DPW are the heart and soul of the agency, and the drivers of effective agencies. I remain committed to them as the most important asset DPW has to deliver on its promises to residents.

DPW has been in the habit of holding phantom positions open for vacancy savings, a budgeting trick that makes it hard to understand what is happening with the agency’s workforce. We were told the agency is moving away from that practice, and I endorse that change.

I working to identify inefficiencies and overlapping services in D.C. government. As committee member Councilmember Janeese Lewis George pointed out, there is no good reason for trash in a park to be collected by DPW and the recycling to be collected by the Department of General Services. And there’s no good reason for three agencies (!) to be responsible for mowing grass. These are the kinds of inefficiencies I am looking to address in this year’s (and every year’s) budget.

We learned that implementing D.C.’s Zero Waste plan is not a big priority for the next fiscal year—there is only funding for existing programs that fall under the plan. We need to do better if we’re going to meet our zero waste goals as a city.

No cuts to parking enforcement staff in the proposed DPW budget is definitely positive news, especially in the current climate. Booting and towing of scofflaw cars, sometimes owned by dangerous drivers, is a topic that I know has been top of mind for many, and it is key to enhancing public safety in the District.

We hear over and over from residents that the worst-offending vehicles in their neighborhood are well known and can usually be found in the same places. It seems like the public’s frustration is that DPW doesn’t use that intel effectively.

DPW has a new system—only a few weeks old—that maps out likely locations of the highest-offending vehicles, which can guide booting and towing operations. I’m looking forward to assessing its impact and how the Council can direct resources towards this effort.

Booting and towing is about changing behavior and removing dangerous drivers, not about collecting fines. We still have hundreds of vehicles with over forty outstanding violations on the road. I hope DPW will work with us to hold vehicle owners and drivers accountable for the safety of all of us in the D.C.

At our oversight hearing with the Office of Administrative Hearings, I expressed concern about the Mayor’s proposed budget for OAH. The Office of Administrative Hearings is an independent agency that serves as an administrative court for D.C. It decides cases on unemployment compensation, Medicaid and other public benefits, public space, rent control, professional and business licenses, and building, health, and fire code violations, among others. OAH also receives payments of fines imposed by various agencies.

Agency cuts come at a time when it is clear that there is a need for increased staffing support and adequate support for technology. Administrative hearings already often take a long time, and these cuts may further delay the process.

The technology infrastructure and equipment available, including support for those individuals who are Deaf or hard of hearing, or visually impaired, plays a huge role in advancing access to justice at the agency.

The testimony we heard at the hearing made clear that cuts at the agency will seriously impact its ability to adjudicate cases in a timely manner, increasing an already large backlog.

Access to a fair, efficient, and effective administrative litigation system is the agency’s core mission. D.C. residents deserve access to fair and timely hearings.

Be part of the budget process: I encourage you to testify, submit testimony, and contact your councilmembers to share your feedback on what should or shouldn’t be in the budget. The schedule for upcoming Committee on Public Works & Operations budget oversight hearings can be found here.

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Traffic safety is public safety. Working together with DPW, we are making it harder to be a dangerous driver in D.C.
Residents are encouraged to testify at performance oversight (and other) hearings

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